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Le Cheapest Classic Car Ever Is A $1,600 Renault Le Car

Illustration for article titled Le Cheapest Classic Car Ever Is A $1,600 Renault Le Car

Have we got a car for you! A bona-fide classic! The best in Gallic ingenuity and Space-Age thriftiness! A funky little ride that gets great mileage and packs in all the charm! Yes, this beige 1980 Renault Le Car is a classic, and, some may argue, was always a classic. Never say that even the French, foisting this upon us in the Eighties with the help of AMC (aka the House Un-American Motors Committee) aren’t prone to a bit of self-deprecation!

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Illustration for article titled Le Cheapest Classic Car Ever Is A $1,600 Renault Le Car

Hence, the labels, affixed to every exterior feature of the car—and we mean every single feature: Le Hubcap. Le Marker Light. Le Grill, Le Headlight, Le Vent, Le Vent (the other one), Le Cold Air Intake, Le Dead Bugs Splattered All Over The Front End From That One Time Le Car Hit 45 Miles Per Hour On Le Hill And Nearly Swerved Into Le Mailbox. No, wait, that’s not actually a label. If it was, it’d run the full length of Le Hood. Try not to think about masculine and feminine tenses in Romance languages, please, as Le Head may Le Explode.

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Illustration for article titled Le Cheapest Classic Car Ever Is A $1,600 Renault Le Car

Ahem. As of two hours ago, classic car site Bring A Trailer’s cheapest classic car, until they get hold of a Fuego, sold for just $1,615. For an hour, the auction’s price refused to budge at $880. In the last hour, the price nearly doubled. Jay Leno must have gotten in a bidding war with his Collision Course residuals. “You could flip this for $2500 on Renault forums, easy,” one commenter helpfully advised.

The intrepid winner, by the username usfd301, will receive no radio, no rust, more than its fair share of Le Dents, and a set of Le Weber carburetors to go with said Le Car. “The original hood emblem has been replaced by a drain guard,” they tersely note, and Le Drain gets a label too, which makes us wonder whether the factory actually equipped a $150 Le Decal And Handling Premium Cold Weather Platinum Package, or the previous owner simply went mad with a label gun they recklessly purchased from Staples.

You may certainly have to keep that trailer close by. Here’s what the august senior statesmen of the Bring A Trailer comment section have to say about such a machine:

It was a blast to drive, in the sense of a small-engine ‘momentum’ car. The inside rear wheel would routinely leave the ground in hard cornering, even at ‘street’ speeds. Gave quite the thwack when it returned to Earth after a turn.

Ours was a proper R5, bright yellow with round lights. We bought it new as our daily driver. One day my buddy Brent and I were out driving the back roads and ended up at the Stage Stop Inn, which had a great view of Rollins Pass which crosses the Continental Divide. While consuming adult beverages at the Inn, Brent and I decided that the little yellow 5 could best the pass. And so we set off. Due to its great suspension travel and tight turning radius we could find a path through obstacles that were stopping the big boys. It was so narrow one of us had to get out of the car and guide the driver. Far below you could see the hulks of trucks that didn’t make it. Finally we were across and the trail down slope was far easier. Our R5 never missed a beat and never let us down. I still miss it.

It would be a bit confusing if they came in a LE trim level.

My buddy David in high school had one of these with the rollback sunroof. It was pea green. David smoked a lot of weed so I had to (as opposed to got to) drive it several times. Weird little car.

Based on the comments it appears these are either charming, reliable little cars or complete hunks of shit.

I bought a new one in 1978, one of the things that sold me on the car was the brochure with a picture of the little instrument panel that was captioned “Le Flight Deck” and since that described my work place I just couldn’t resist. The Le Car proved to be an absolutely reliable airport car until one day when returning to the airport parking lot I found my Le Car surrounded by fire trucks and personnel. What happened was the Idiot parked next to me was dripping gas into his carburetor from a gallon gas can and his car backfired igniting the gas can. He dropped the can which then rolled under my Le Car and – well you can guess how that turned out.

The wife’s first car in college. After a few months she changed its name to Le Mon.

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Illustration for article titled Le Cheapest Classic Car Ever Is A $1,600 Renault Le Car

It’s no $71,000 BMW 2002—but this was one enthusiast’s chance to join the ranks of the classic car collectors while maintaining a je ne sais quoi sense of humor, to boot.

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DISCUSSION

There are fewer cars more worthy of Jalopnik. At this little automobile’s core lies the heart and soul of what creates a motoring enthusiast. It isn’t obvious and it isn’t loud, but it’s there.

Keep your classic Corvettes and Mustangs. They’re great and definitely worth appreciating, but this is where most of us lived. We drove Cavaliers, we drove Beetles, we drove Le Cars. We didn’t necessarily want to but we needed a way to get around and these things were within our reach. And in choosing them, we admitted, however reluctantly, that we didn’t really have a choice so at a certain level we resented and despised them, these little cheap slow noisy cars. We gave them unlovely names: penalty box. Econobox. Rust bucket.

Entry level models.

But they were the keys to the kingdom of the wider world. With these little cars we could get to work and keep earning money and afford nicer cars. We could get away from work and vacate and unwind and maybe fondle our significant others, however clumsily, in the cramped back seats. We could move out of our parents’ homes, we could move out of our best friends’ apartments, we could move into our own place. We stuffed them full of pizza, full of friends, full of furniture.

And they took it. These entry level models were small and cheap and weak and sometimes breathtakingly poorly made, but they usually performed better than their price point suggested they would. The steel was thin and the rustproofing was nonexistent, oversights the factories would usually come to realize a bit too late but we gritted our teeth and smiled through the icy blast of winter wind howling up our pants legs, even as we swore we would never, ever buy from this brand again.

We often bought from that brand again. Not just in spite of these and other shortcomings, sometimes because of them. What is a perfectly good, unremarkably reliable and satisfactory ride compared to a memory? “Do you remember the time...?” You didn’t share stories with your friends about what happened in the Chevy Celebrity. What happened in the Celebrity had nothing to do with the Celebrity itself, but what happened in the Chevette? Holy moley, what didn’t? Everything car related happened in the Chevette, in the Tercel, in the Le Car. It made a mark on your memory and by extension, left a mark on your entire personality. Love it or hate it, you cannot forget it.

We drove each one and made it as much our own as we could. Give it a name, give it a paint or tape job, give it an odd new hood ornament. If it couldn’t be fast, at least it could be unique. If it was cheap, we would shout how cheap it was - too cheap even for a model name! Why not? Not fast but if you can build speed you’ll keep it through every turn all the time! Put ten gallons of gas in it and drive all week without even looking at the fuel gauge. We might not have been able to have a “true” enthusiast’s car, but we were able to find enthusiasm for the cars we could have. If you can’t have an purebred that impresses, you can at least have a mutt that you like.

I would step up to an entire yard - preferably a much larger yard than my own, because there were many, many bottom-tier models and each has its own unique charms, distinctive warts - full of cars like this little Le Car. I would build a huge pole barn so they would be out of the weather, and I would invite people to come see not the exotics, not the icons, but the grains of sand. I would invite them to step outside of their madding desire to be amazed and instead slow down just a bit to reminisce and remark upon how no matter how bad the damned thing was, it had its merits. It was slow but it was thrifty. It was noisy but it worked. “But” is where cars like this live. I want a better car, but. I used to have to walk, but.

I would have a car collection, but. But, nothing. If I had one, this would be part of it. Revile its pedestrian nature if you must, but I love it and all its brethren, this Le Car, this economy model. They are a part of us. We are Jalopnik, we are cars. We are all cars.